Part of the job in dealing with emergencies and disasters is also dealing with the people who want to volunteer their help. The first responders are all trained individuals and they know what what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. Volunteers are often untrained good intentioned people who want to help. In the Emergency / Disaster situations we have to categorize these volunteers into three categories:
1. “Show Up” – These are folks who have no specific training but show up to offer any help they can.
2. “Trained” – These people have received training in emergency / disaster situations.
3. “Command” – These individuals have received emergency / disaster training and possess “big picture” knowledge of the situation in order to organize and lead other volunteers.
Using the example of the last article we wrote, “What does Be MorePREpared do?”, we can demonstrate how these categories of volunteers functioned.
As you may recall, TEAM Be MorePREpared was contacted by Council member Bob Blumenfield that an Evacuation Shelter was being set up at Taft High School due to Wildfires in Ventura County and Disaster Supplies were needed ASAP. Now in this situation the emergency / disaster that needed to be dealt with was not the fires themselves but rather what was called the “Second Disaster”… the handling of the massive response to a call for donations to support those arriving at the Evacuation Center as well as those involved with the fires.
There was a list of requested items to be donated but once the call went out people began showing up with all kinds of items. Logistics became a primary concern so TEAM Be MorePREpared took control by establishing command of the situation.
“Command” Volunteers determined that the immediate needs were:
⁃ Traffic Control
⁃ Donation Drop Off location
⁃ Donation Pick Up location
⁃ Donation Overflow location
“Trained” Volunteers that are part of the Be MorePREpared team organized the “Show Up” Volunteers to direct traffic, establish areas and traffic lanes for the three designations of donations as well as provide the physical labor required to organize and relocate the donations to the correct areas for distribution.
“Command” Volunteers from the local HAM radio team also were involved with their “Trained” Volunteer members in establishing a closed communication network within the area to facilitate communication between the various elements of the Be MorePREpared team.
In this scenario the Be MorePREpared team was able to avoid the “Second Disaster” of unmanaged random donations by organizing and utilizing trained and untrained volunteers to efficiently handle the helpful response from the local community.
Using another of our previous articles, “Managing Spontaneous Volunteers”, we can add another set of categories to the conversation… “Spontaneous Volunteers”. These volunteers fall into the category of “Show Up” Volunteers because they are not part of the expected personnel. However, the people may be trained or untrained.
A wonderful example of how these various groups of volunteers can mesh to accomplish desired results in an Emergency / Disaster situation is this 12 minute video, “BOATLIFT – An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience”, the epic story of the 9/11 boatlift that evacuated half a million people from the stricken piers and seawalls of Lower Manhattan.
In this scenario there was no prepared or planned response for an Emergency / Disaster of this nature. In that sense, everyone was in the “Show Up” Volunteer category but it is quite easy to see how the needed structure of volunteers developed.